Ginger

The truth is, I don’t remember most of my parents’ divorce. I was barely four years old when my parents made their decision. I was just lucky that six months earlier they had gotten me the one thing I would need to get me through it all.
***
“PUPPIES!” I shrieked in excitement as my mom, dad, grandparents, and I walked into a room containing my early fourth birthday present. My thick golden curls bounced around my face as I ran toward them, meeting them half way. I felt two orange paws hit my stomach first. I looked down and two big brown eyes met mine. She had huge paws and darker ears than the rest of her body. We stood in the pee smelling room for another half hour as I ruffled her fur and she licked my face.
“Which one’s it gonna be Meagan?” my grandpa asked.
“Make sure you get a girl!” my mom chimed in. She was hoping that a girl wouldn’t grow to be as large as the massive father of the litter, but boy was she wrong.
“I want this one,” I said, confident in my choice. I sat down on the floor and she crawled up into my lap, the warmth of her body on my legs. I let my tiny fingers brush through her soft fur from her head to her tail.
“Okay, Meagan, it’s time to go,” my dad said scooping the golden retriever up from my lap. He handed her off to a lady who then placed her on the counter and painted the puppy’s toenail bright pink marking her as mine.
When we returned a few weeks later, she had grown into a lovable little furball. Her toenail had been washed clean and she was now marked with a red reflective collar. She was let out of her family’s pen and darted toward me, tackling me and then covering me with puppy breath kisses. My dad picked both of us up from the floor and settled us down. He then packed her into a forest green safety crate and placed her into the car. Her cage faced toward the back seat so I could see her face while we drove home. “Hi puppy,” I said, slipping my fingers through the metal bars struggling to reach her sleepy head. “We’re home.”
My dad picked up her crate and carried her in through the garage door. He set her down in a room that had been blocked off from the rest of the house and covered in newspaper. Her crate door opened and she rushed out, tumbling into a petite ball of fuzz. Together, we were a family.
The following September my parents divorced. They told me their decision as I gripped onto the smooth fur I had come to know so well. She would soon become the only constant I knew throughout my childhood.
Our lives were continually switching scenery. Sometimes we were in Putney and sometimes we were in Westminster, but wherever we went, we were always together. There were nights when I would miss my dad or my mom and she would always come and lay down near me. She was the one thing I could never miss, because she was always there. I would crawl off one of my purple comforters and rest my head on her stomach. Her heartbeat would pound below my ears and her tummy would expand and shrink with her breaths. I would cover us up in my white blanky and fall asleep.

Sometimes I would get so scarred that people were going to take me away and hurt me. It was hard to sleep alone in the basement where my mom was so far away. The option to climb into bed with my mom didn’t exist, because some stranger already occupied the spot beside her. I needed protection, someone to keep me safe while my mom and dad couldn’t. Ginger was always there.

She became more like a sibling to me than a dog. We would splash in my boat pool, play tag, get in trouble for being so dirty, and lay in the grass under the summer sun. I shared my secrets with her and she never told anybody. I refused to take any picture without her and snuck her food from under the table. When I would eat breakfast in the mornings she would rest her head on my thigh, slobbering all over my pants. I didn’t mind though; it was proof that she loved me. We got into fights, that she always started, but I always forgave her. She ate black berries with me and licked the purple juice off my face.

We went through almost ten years like that, traveling back and forth from Mom’s to Dad’s. She made the yelling and screaming tolerable and helped to drown it out with her deep barks. Anything I had to go through, so did she, right by my side. Petting her glossy, golden coat soothed every nerve and her “a-roofs” calmed every cry.
***

Ginger became a full timer at my mom’s house after my dad’s witch of a fiancé moved in with a yappy dog named “Django.” Django didn’t get along with my easy going, light hearted, golden retriever. He would chase her under the deck causing her to quiver and yelp.

She was getting older too. The back seats of my Dad’s Chevy 4x4 were getting hard to climb in and out of. She needed to settle down and live out her golden years with less commotion. I didn’t mind. The hard part was over. We had gotten all the way through Putney Central and started high school and it was obvious that I was growing up and out of my childhood. I still rested my head on her stomach and cried into her fur when times got tough and I couldn’t handle it all on my own. That was something that would never end.
***

Everything comes to an end, but I never imagined how strong the gaping emptiness could be. Ginger died of tumor just days after her twelfth birthday. The girl I had known so well and the only one who had stuck with me since the day we met was no longer in my life. As if I had seen it coming, before I had left for my scheduled dad’s time, I had run back up to the house and hugged her. Something told me that if I just left without saying goodbye I would regret it. Just a day before I had held my nose opposite her, looking into her eyes and told her that I loved her for the very last time.

I hid my tears from my mom as we drove down Main Street. Smiling faces past by mine taunting me with their happiness. My mom tried to talk about how it was okay to cry and that it was going to be really tough, but I couldn’t listen to her. She wasn’t a memory yet. She was still alive. I would touch that thick golden fur again and feel her wet nose against my skin. My head would still rest on her belly and hear her beating heart.
When we got home reality hit me. Absence filled the walls and a tennis ball lay half chewed on the floor. Her giant dog bed rested bare by the window. I ran up the stairs to my room so I could cry openly, half expecting her to be lying on my bed like she used to. The room was empty though. I sat down on my bed and reached for her picture on the windowsill. Clutching her to my chest I sobbed, wishing that my goodbye tears could have soaked into her golden fur once again.





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AlyAT said...
Jun. 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm
Amazing piece! You got me to cry at the end, and I rarely cry. Cant wait to see what you do next!
 
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